GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Awarded $25,000 from Start Garden, a Grand Rapids startup is aiming to keep people safe around firearms.

“I’ve been into firearms for a long time and was like, how can I find a tool that will effectively bridge the gap between someone brand new and someone with experience? Like, how can I help them get over their fears?” said the owner and operator of Freedom Elevated Defense Solutions Damien Allen.

He found the answer in eliminating the ammunition so that people could focus on the basics and build up to firing live rounds. The guns used in the beginning look and feel like the real thing but are powered by gas and shoot an infrared signal onto a screen. 

Freedom Elevated Defense Solutions started during the pandemic when Allen, a DJ, was out of a job.

“One of the things I have been big on is leading my life with passion and it was something I was passionate about with the same as DJing,” Allen said. “I really want to dispel anything negative with owning a firearm, especially when it comes to Black and brown people, and then women being empowered. I’ve had people who have been victims of domestic violence come take the class and feel empowered afterwards, like, ‘I can do this. I can protect myself.'”

The class starts with the basics and moves on to real life self-defense situations, using videos to put clients in everything from a home invasion to road rage situation.

A lawyer provides education on legal rights as a gun owner, allowing you to walk away from the class with everything you need to be a responsible firearm owner and with a concealed pistol license, if you choose.

Allen hopes making firearms training more accessible allows more people to become educated, which helps to lower the number of firearm accidents and killings.

“Our goal here is for you never to have to take a life,” Allen said. “It’s about saving lives.”